In March Greg and I will celebrate three years of marriage.
To us it feels like we've finished a damn marathon. Marriage has worked us into the ground, it has pushed us to our physical and emotional limits, we've wanted desperately to quit at times. It's been extremely trying, but in the same breath, unimaginably rewarding. After three years we feel like we have accomplished quite the feat. We are, after all, still alive.
On paper, Greg and I seem like we would have no problems in a marriage. We are the same race, from the same county, practicing same religion. We studied similar subjects in college (Theatre and English) and we have disgustingly similar senses of humor. We are both middle class raised by two parents in Utah. So adjusting to married life should be relatively easy, right?
It wasn't. It was hard.
I have heard other people say that the first year of marriage was tough for them, too. How tough- I have no idea- I have only seen the inside of my own marriage. For me, this is one of the most difficult things about marriage. There is nothing to compare it to, no benchmark to make sure we are all doing okay. Is this how often "normal couples" fight? How often "normal couples" go out? What "normal couples" talk about? Is my marriage healthy or unhealthy? It's a marriage- that's about all I know for sure.
Greg and I have come a long way, and it is only after a couple of years and lots on introspection that I am even able to write about our sometimes tumultuous first year of marriage. I write about this for a couple of reasons- I want my children to have a better understanding of their parents and to understand the struggles and conflicts that we went through. I want them to know we fought tooth and nail for our family. Secondly, I want to be honest and truthful to readers who may have experienced or may be currently experiencing similar conflicts in relationships. It seems kind of dumb for Greg and I to have worked so hard only to use the information to benefit for ourselves. And so, in a post shining plenty of light on our faults and flaws, I will share with you not only our struggles and disagreements that first year, but how we worked through them.
Conflict #1: Greg is an introvert, I am an extrovert. When we were dating, this hardly mattered as we were so intoxicated with each other that it didn't much matter how we spent our free time. Honestly, we spent a lot of time making out. We couldn't have cared less who else was around. We were also on our best behavior, always anxious to please the other. 3D action movie that I have zero desire to see? You bet! Dinner with your entire 85 members of your extended family? I'd love to! I never realized that when we were together Greg was expending energy, and that he used our time apart to recharge. An extrovert like myself gets energy from being around people- I assumed it was the same for Greg. When we got married I was shocked (and hurt) that he would rather sit home on a Friday night and watch a movie than go out with a crowd. I was bugged that he didn't want to go to dance parties; he was upset that cuddling on the couch with him wasn't enough for me. I still remember six or seven months into our marriage a Halloween argument. After a long day of school, work, and rehearsal I was desperately trying to convince Greg to dress up and go to a costume party with me. He begged to stay home and watch a scary movie and pop popcorn instead. I wouldn't budge. We were going out, dang it! Exasperated, Greg shouted out, "Bonnie! I don't like parties!" I remember feeling total confusion- who was this man?
"WHAT?! YOU ALWAYS WENT TO PARTIES WITH ME WHEN WE WERE DATING!"
"Because I was trying to impress you! But I don't like them!" It was a revelation to me, and not the good kind.
If I had my way we would party hard all weekend long every weekend. If Greg had his way we'd nap and watch Netflix and never leave the apartment. I can't tell you how many arguments we have had that have in some way stemmed from the introvert/extrovert issue.
How we compromise:
Greg is always willing to do an extroverted activity with me IF I give him enough time to mentally prepare for it. If I want dinner with a group of friends on Sunday I need to tell him by Wednesday or Thursday. I have learned to always give him a few days of "prep". If it's a big thing, like a week at my family cabin, I tell him as soon as possible- two or three months in advance. When the event comes Greg has stored up the mental energy to handle the event. It is when I spring stuff on him last minute that the argument and hurt feelings start up. Greg has also learned that there are certain times I am more likely to be high energy and to give me "prep time" as well. If he has play rehearsal all day Saturday he will often tell me, "Tonight when I get home I am just going to want to hang out with you and watch a movie. I would love for you to do something more high energy this afternoon with your friends or sisters so that you don't feel cooped up and are okay with staying home with me tonight." I think this will be a constant struggle throughout our marriage, but it gets easier all the time.
Conflict #2: Money money money. Greg and I have very different views on money. In short, I am a saver, he's a spender. He likes to have a good time and live for today- if we can pay for a movie why not go to it?! I am the total opposite- we just got a check for $900, how dare you buy a $4 burger?! Greg could lose $50 and never notice. If someone owes me $2.50, I never forget. So many of our first arguments were over me stressing about money, and Greg frustrated that I was sucking the fun out of everything. We'd go to a restaurant and I'd frown disapprovingly at his expensive entree choice. I would badger him, "You went to Wendy's again?" when he'd walk in with fast food. I'd insist he didn't really need new jeans- he got a new pair last year. I got bothered by Greg's total lack of interest in money- spreadsheets, budgets, credit cards, interest rates had absolutely no appeal to him. He couldn't handle the constant nagging. "Don't you want to know how much money we've saved this month?" I'd ask excitedly. "Not really, Bon Bon, but do you want to go to Olive Garden tonight?"
How we compromise: Greg has gotten SO much better about finding small ways to cut costs because he knows it's important to me. My heart melts when I see him using a coupon or ordering water at a restaurant instead of soda or turning down the heat so we can save on our gas bill. It doesn't come naturally to him, and I know he couldn't care less about paying the extra few dollars, but he does it because he loves me. Likewise, I try to be better about loosening up on the budget and not sucking the fun out of everything by worrying about money. I let us pay full price for movies (gasp!) and we even sometimes splurge on popcorn (double gasp!) I am still pretty uptight about finances, but I am trying to ease up and Greg is getting much better at not stopping so much for fast food. (Greg's credit card bill is spent entirely on fast food and gas stations. He could spend an entire year's wage on gas station snacks and be happy as a clam.)
Conflict #3: Not knowing how to fight fair. I'm convinced that half of the struggle in our first year of marriage was caused by not understanding how the other person dealt with conflicts. I like to get arguments over with right away so when we would have a disagreement I was right in Greg's face, demanding answers and apologies. Greg always retreated (I think this is a boy/girl thing?) and wanted space from me. This made me more mad, that he wasn't more anxious to resolve the conflict and that he would let the issue continue by not taking care of it immediately.
"I don't want this going on all night! Let's resolve it right now!" I'd insist.
"Bonnie, I need some space." Greg would go into the other room.
I'd follow him. "No! I want to enjoy the rest of our night. Why are you acting like this?"
"I'm too upset. Leave me alone."
"TALK TO ME!"
"STOP TALKING TO ME!"
So many of our fights escalated like wildfire and before I knew what was happening a tiny disagreement about Sunday dinner turned into a full blown battle. Most of our problems that year had nothing to do with the actual "problem" but with in our dealing with the problem.
How we compromise: I have gotten much better at not pushing Greg's buttons. When he gets short or snappy, I simply remove myself from the conversation and start doing something else. It's never long before he approaches me ready to talk about it. Once I learned to give Greg space in an argument everything got so much easier. Our disagreements are solved four times faster than they were before and they never escalate to the epic proportions they once did. Greg has gotten so much better about saying sorry and admitting fault. He has also gotten better about not "shutting off". I think he knows know that while I am willing to give him time in an argument, he needs to be willing to come out of his cocoon soon and talk to me.
Conflict #4: Time with family. Greg and I live close to both of our families which is a huge blessing. We love being so close and feeling their support. It also brings with it some difficulties. Greg comes from a family of two children and I come from a family of eight children so the mere size of our families took a lot of getting used to. Greg's family (consisting of his parents, brother and his wife, and me and Greg) goes out to eat, stays up late watching tv and talks about dogs a lot. My family has massive family dinners and sits around a house and talks while 25 children scream in the background. Greg felt like a stranger at my family get togethers of 100 second cousins and nieces once removed. I got lonely with Greg's small family when no one wanted to play a game with me. I was offended when Greg would rather spend time with his family, he likewise when I preferred mine.
How we compromise: We love each other's families now. This one I just think takes time and love. Now Greg is defensive and protective of my mom, he jokes with my brothers, he adores my nieces and nephews. I can't get enough of the crazy thing Greg's dad says, his mom couldn't be sweeter and more loving and I love hanging with his brother and wife. It just took us time to realize how great each other's families were.
There were (and are) more issues, of course, but gosh, I'm exhausted reliving the first year. I learned so much those first twelve months and continue to learn every day. Marriage is the hardest thing I've ever done, but by far the most rewarding. The more time that passes in our marriage the better it gets so I take that as a good sign. I can't imagine how freaking awesome year 30 is going to be. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Did you (or do you) struggle with the same issues we did?
What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to in your marriage/ long term relationship?